Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus came for the sick. (Since he came to heal and to save, we may be able to comprehend this both literally and figuratively, that is, the physically sick and the spiritually sick.) Jesus came for sinners — those who miss the mark.
Conversely, Jesus did not come for the healthy, the righteous. What exactly does that mean? Perhaps:
- People who are righteous (good and law-abiding) don’t need Jesus. (Is Jesus implying their path is through the Old Testament covenant and following the Law of Moses?)
- People who think they are on the right track will never know they need Jesus, so he is dismissing them.
- Everyone needs Jesus, but some people delude themselves, thinking they are the exception.
None of these ideas is an adequate explanation for me of what this text means. Although the first one seems heretical, it is also the most direct understanding of Jesus’ actual words. The other two responses require an interjection of ideas, some assumptions to be made — of basically reading the text through our own theological glasses.
Fortunately, I don’t need to understand this text completely. What I do know is I need a doctor — and his name is Jesus.